Tigers bash opponents en route to weekend sweeps

Missouri didn’t drop a single set during the weekend's slate of games.

After going undefeated at its own Tiger Invitational the weekend before, the Missouri volleyball team felt confident upon landing in Tennessee to play in the Middle Tennessee Blue Raider Bash.

The Tigers’ first game in Murfreesboro was an exhibition match against Middle Tennessee. After suffering painful defeat in a 3-1 decision, the feeling had seemingly shifted.

Before beginning tournament play, coach Wayne Kreklow said he sensed his team’s confidence draining.

“We talked about how sometimes we can feel good about ourselves and then kind of just get punched in the face,” Kreklow said. “I was worried that there was a feeling of doubt (after the loss). We weren’t the smooth team from the previous weekend. But I was pleased with how they bounced back.”

Indeed, the Tigers finished the Blue Raider Bash as tournament champions, not dropping a single set all weekend in matches against Austin Peay, East Tennessee State, Florida International and Auburn.

Senior middle blocker Brittney Brimmage was a fearsome force at the Murphy Center and was named tournament MVP after striking 56 kills with only five errors on .637 hitting over the weekend.

Sophomores Lisa Henning and Molly Kreklow were named All-Tournament. Henning continued to show her versatility on the court, performing on both the front and back lines. The outside hitter recorded 49 kills along with 29 digs on the weekend.

Teammates looked to Kreklow for scoring and the setter delivered 176 total assists. She also assisted on the block, racking up nine against Florida International, a career best.

Freshmen Emily Wilson, Katie O’Brien and Whitney Little helped their team’s attack. The three combined for 100 kills. Little was ultra productive in front of the net and now has 37 blocks on the season. She has reached the 30-mark in blocks faster than any player Kreklow has seen in his decade coaching at Missouri.

“She adds another component to what we’re doing here,” Kreklow said. “She did a great job (and) played smart. We need her for exactly what she’s doing.”

Another freshmen, defensive specialist Jade Hayes, worked alongside senior libero Priscilla Armendariz to hold opponents to .214 hitting in the tournament. Armendariz led the team with 58 digs while Hayes corralled 33.

The schedule on the road has only begun for the Tigers, who will play in Denver next weekend in the Pioneer Classic.

Kreklow said he wants his team to continue to focus on fundamental work adding that his team’s success is the product of doing the “little things” right.

“This weekend, it was the little things that were being done well,” he said. “There were so many times when players were making ‘off-ball’ plays, reacting when the ball wasn’t theirs to play.”

As the team flew home Sunday night to Columbia, players carried with them the first loss of the season but also a combined eight wins -- all of them coming in the fashion of a three-set sweep.

“You never want to lose, but looking back on the weekend, hopefully going through that will give them a sense of confidence,” Kreklow said. “Knowing that they can’t win all of them, but, even when things aren’t going well, they can still be successful.”

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